Cancer Care Nova Scotia Excellence in Patient Care Nomination

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cancer Care Nova Scotia

Excellence in Patient Care

Nomination for Dr. Robert Rutledge, MD, Radiation Oncologist

Dr. Robert Rutledge exudes health and life. He understands his personal power as a doctor and leader and clearly practices the reality of eating, exercising and living well. Within this ‘health’ context, Rob – as he will be quick to tell you to call him – has developed the practice of being completely present when you are with him. It’s just you and Rob (and your loved one, if appropriate). It’s as though he has nothing else in the whole world to do but be there with you, listen (and listen) to your concerns and when necessary, deal with them. No matter what state you arrive in (usually stressed and fearful), you will leave his presence calm and collected with a sense that ‘all is well’ regardless of what you are facing with cancer.

Rob is extremely professional, which is particularly crucial considering the intimate types of cancer he deals with: breast and prostrate, as well as children’s cancer. He prefers to talk to you in your real clothes and not the Johnny shirts that so strip you of your sense of dignity and identity. He is honest, frank, compassionate, thoughtful and incredibly observant. He is confident without being arrogant and he is always looking to see what kind of a patient you are – what level of care do you require? This is the critical question that separates him from most others.

Are you looking for science to fix your cancer? He’s got that. Do you need someone to help you face your very real (and often dark) emotions? He’s not afraid to ask the tough questions with you. Is your support structure sagging? He is clear about the benefits of support groups for you and your loved one, and he is quick to tune in on yours, and your loved one’s, emotional frequency. Are you seeking spiritual answers for the sorry health prognosis you are facing? Rob can comfortably respond to that too. It’s as though he is sporting three antennae – physical, emotional, spiritual – with a sonar scan to pick up your overall state-of being. He misses nothing. Respects all. Never condescends. He can meet you where you are, no matter where you are!

What’s more, Rob offers hope regardless of the statistics and prognosis. Add bad cancer news to Rob Rutledge and the sum equals hope and possibility. He knows cancer is a head game, and he comes right alongside whatever is happening in your head to work towards the best possible outcome.

Although only in his mid-forties, Rob has spent his life’s work wanting to extend his help beyond his regular medical practice. “I realized early in my career I wanted to understand the human side of the cancer experience and apply those learnings to help others,” he said. Cancer as a disease carries an unbelievable burden of doom with it, despite how much greater survival rates are, and it is this doom that Rob enables patients to face – and reframe – into something bearable and very ‘carry-able’.

All these qualities – his personal wellness leadership, mindfulness, professionalism, commitment to respond to patient questions and concerns – merit the committee’s deep consideration for this award. However, Rob was not satisfied staying within the medical system to empower people on their journey to wellness. Early in his career, Rob and his colleague, Psychotherapist Tim Walker, PhD, decided to develop a weekend retreat workshop called “Skills for Healing Cancer”. Really. Healing Cancer. Two words you rarely find together on conventional cancer websites patients are directed to for information and support. Since 1993, they have, on their own time and dime, led over 30 weekend retreats in 15 cities in Canada and abroad, helped more than 1,000 people face, and reframe, their cancer experience. More, in 2003 they developed Skills for Wellness programs for healthcare providers to empower their colleagues to extend the reach and impact of the work they had started.

From the weekend retreats, they created the Healing and Cancer Foundation, now a registered Canadian charity; wrote a book being launched May 6, 2010; and created a website ( offering all their weekend retreat wisdom and cancer patients’ true stories free of charge to anyone who wishes to view (and use) them. While this is a team effort, Rob is the heavy lifter and the energetic driver that keeps this huge and inspiring body of work moving in the right direction – endorsing conventional medicine while gently awakening and encouraging patients to see the mind-body-spirit connection.

When people are asked to describe Rob, most often the response is ‘he is a very special person’. Using Rob’s phrasing, we would say he is ‘super special’.

I hope you will seriously consider Dr. Robert Rutledge for this very deserving award. I do not think it is too bold a statement to say he has positively impacted the lives of any one he has encountered on their cancer journey.

Sincerely yours,

Kelly Hennessey

Rob Rutledge’s patient, 2008-09

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